From youngest Estonian House shareholder to Viru Vanem donor
When Arthur Heinmaa was just 18 months old, his parents Atmar and Edda wanted to ensure he would be inextricably linked to the community by securing shares in his name to the Estonian House in Toronto. He has remained a dedicated shareholder ever since.
Now, many decades later, Arthur and his wife Mary have secured their childrens’ future to the community by becoming Viru Vanemad donors to the KESKUS International Estonian Centre. KESKUS is the dynamic new hub for the Estonian community that is under construction in downtown Toronto.
“Often when you make the decision to support a project, you are thinking ‘what am I getting out of this?’” Arthur explains. “But we want to think a generation ahead, to when we are holding our grandchildren, and that by donating we are holding space for them to be connected to their roots.”
Arthur and Mary live in Toronto and have two children: son Marcus is 30, and daughter Anika is 28. Arthur is President of Cidel Asset Management, the asset management division of a private Canadian bank, and Mary is Director of Philanthropy at Victoria University, a college of the University of Toronto. Arthur’s sisters Andrea Hermann and Alice Jupe also live in Toronto.
The couple are involved in many charities and believe strongly in the value of giving. They also hold fast to the importance of instilling knowledge of cultural heritage to their children.
Mary is of Greek descent, and her parents immigrated to Canada as well. The couple shared the experience of growing up in families where hard work, dedication and emphasis on the value of a good education were second nature.
“Because we are from different cultures, it’s important to us that our children respect and know about their respective families and what they have gone through,” Mary said. “These are valuable stories that we want to teach them.”
And, naturally, part of the shared tradition is the love of good food. Like in many “blended” families, Mary has enthusiastically absorbed Estonian culinary interests.
“When I went to the first gathering at Arthur’s parents’ home, there were all these marvelous dishes,” she recalls. In no time, she started making “rosolje”, the distinctive rosy-hued beet salad found at just about every Estonian celebration as well as baking the sweet bread “kringel.”
“The children love them, too!”
Arthur and Mary point out that many people in the generations who are born and raised in North America often only have one parent who is Estonian.
“That is the reality for many cultures and, in fact, it is what makes Canada so unique,” Mary added. “We have to think of the generations that will come after us, and give them something to hold on to, and be connected to.”
“There has to be a reason for them to get involved and be interested.”
Arthur and Mary point out that the fresh, modern architecture of KESKUS – and its prime location in the Bloor Street Culture Corridor - are incredibly appealing.
“KESKUS is so forward-thinking in the way it is designed and how it will be operated,” he said. “It will embrace the future and provide so many ways for people to connect.”
Arthur, whose family was very involved in the arts, knows his parents and grandparents would strongly approve of a centre that will showcase Estonian culture.
His grandmother Valli Olbrei and great-aunt Rahel were both ballet dancers in Estonia. Valli appeared in a number of Estonian ballet performances including Giselle, The Nutcracker and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rahel appeared in the first Estonian sound film “Children of the Sun” directed by Theodor Luts. Her husband Hanno Kompus was an operatic director at Estonia theatre and established Montreali Eesti Teater when he emigrated to Canada.
“This donation is for all my relatives who endured hardships to come to Canada and give us a good life,” Arthur said. “We are giving back in a small way.”
It is clear to Arthur and Mary that the spirit of the arts trailblazers in Estonia from many generations ago will live on at KESKUS, and perhaps even dance on the stage of its Great Hall.
Get involved and help support our future
Are you interested in helping build this spectacular new home for the global Estonian community? Please join our growing list of capital campaign donors! The International Estonian Centre’s donor categories are Kalevipoja Laud for gifts over $100,000 (including naming rights for specific areas), Viru Vanemad for gifts over $10,000, and Kungla Rahvas for gifts up to $10,000. Stay tuned for the launch of the Kungla Rahvas campaign in 2021.
Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All Canadian and U.S. donations will be issued a tax receipt.
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DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 2 - January 14, 2022
Take a look at other digital issues here:
- Eesti Elu Nr. 1 - 7. jaanuar 2022 - DIGILEHT
- Eesti Elu Nr. 51/52 - 23. detsember 2021 - DIGILEHT
- Eesti Elu Nr. 50 - 17. detsember 2021 - DIGILEHT